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Date: Wed, 26 Apr 1995 20:29:27 -0700
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Subject: nanews03.017 (part A)
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Date: Thu, 20 Apr 1995 07:21:50 -0500 (CDT)
From: Jim Shupe <jt_wayagola_shupe@VNET.IBM.COM>
Subj: Powwow Rules

Powwow general rules for first timers

Compiled by White Coyote, [20 April 1995]

It should be noted that every POWWOW is different so the first rule is the most important. The key is respect, and many first timers don't have access to the life-long teachings that we take for granted. Here is the Charley's 16 rules, hope you enjoy.

The following are general rules I give to follow when going to a POWWOW.

1) Listen to the Master of Ceremonies.

2) Do not sit within the arena. The chairs inside the arena are reserved for the dancers. Use the outside circle or bleachers if provided.

3) If you want to take pictures, check with the POWWOW host first, then check with the person you are taking pictures of and ASK THEIR PERMISSION. Under no circumstances may you enter the arena to take photos. Put your camera down for all memorial dances.

4) All tape recording must be done with the permission of the Master of Ceremonies and the Lead (or Head) Singer of EACH drum. When a new drum starts, do not enter the arena to get to the other drum. Don't run. Miss the song and wait for the next one to take your time getting to the drum. Nothing is more rude than Recorder-runners ganging around a drum. Many Powwow disallow this anyway (fine by me!).

5) If you are not wearing traditional Regalia, you may dance only on social songs (like Two-Step, Blanket Dance, Honoring Songs, Circle, etc..) Sometimes a blanket dance is held to gather money. You may enter the circle to donate.

6) Only those with the permission of the Lead Singer may sit at a drum. (And it's a good idea to know the songs because it's often a habit to ask the stranger to lead one.)

7) Stand and men must remove their hat (unless traditional head gear) during the Grand Entry, Flag Songs, Invocation, Memorial, Veterans Songs, and the Closing Song.

8) During the Gourd Dancing, only Gourd Dancers and Gourd Dance Societies are to enter the Dance arena. Owning a gourd rattle does not make one a Gourd Dancer. Check with the local Societies.

9) Please do not permit your children to enter the dance circle unless they are dancing.

10) Do not touch anyones dance Regalia without their permission. These clothes are not costumes and yes we use modern things like safety pins and such because we are a living culture, our Regalia is subject to change. Leave your stereotypes at home. (Yes there are some blond tribal enrolled Indians... no ones fault that life goes on!)

11) If you are asked to dance by an elder, do so. It is rude and disrespectful to say, I don't know how. How can you learn if you turn the elders down?

12) Most all Powwows do not allow Alcoholic beverages, Gold Paint cans, or drugs here. The Powwow is a time of joyful gathering and celebration of life. Alcohol and drugs are destroying our way of life and these bad spirits are not welcome.

13) It's funny how much trash we as people drop. Make an extra effort to walk to the trash can. Respect Mother Earth.

14) Remember always: Native American Indian dances are more than the word dance can describe. They are a ceremony and a prayer which all life encompasses and produce many emotional and spiritual reactions. Some dances are old, some are brand new... the culture continues to live and evolve.

15) Urban Powwows are much more tense than Powwows on the rez. As people are away from the comfort of culture, they tend to take things more seriously. Abide by peoples wishes and requests. We as Indian people believe differently. Some dance around clock-wise, others counter clock-wise. If our host asks, we sometimes voluntarily show our respect by temporarily changing our way(s). Show your respect by doing the same.

16) Have fun. Buy something from the vendors. Donate if you can. And most of all don't be so uptight and relax. The whole universe comes together this day to celebrate. You are invited to join in.

Please remember, these are general rules when there is no other ground work to proceed from. Hope this helps.

Addendum to list on Pow-wow rules:

Some groups believe that children should make their own way around the dance ring, so they frown on carrying your child as you dance. I have always carried my grand children, whether the group likes it or not. But, then I'm a tribal member. If I were a visitor I guess I'd follow the rules.

In addition, some groups don't believe that people should touch each other when they dance, except for the 49 or Two Step dances. This is a rule that I respect, except when someone is truly reluctant to get up and try it. Then I offer to link arms and they soon get over their shyness.


MOST OF ALL: when the announcer calls an Intertribal dance, the persons who have come to pow-wow as visitors should respect the call and get out on the dance ring. There is a reason for this. It is not polite to watch as others perform. Pow-wow is really about honoring the circle, not letting others do the honoring for you. I realize that some folks feel self conscious about getting the moves right, but I have never witnessed any ridicule of anyone's dancing. A good Anishinabe friend of mine suggests that we each develop the policy of leaving our egos on the seat when we get up to dance. That way, they can't be influenced by the thought that we might look out of place. No one is out of place in the circle.--Mary Ritchie:Potawatomi

I am a Northern Traditional Dancer from Pine Ridge SD. I have danced at pow-wows since the age of 5years. Having danced Fancy and Grass styles and run the White Wolf Singers out of Denver CO, I know a few things about pow-wows.

1) Pow-wows are NOT I repeat NOT traditional in any way. The modern day pow-wow was formed in Oklahoma after the traders decided that they could bring tourists into their areas by having the people play Indian. Although the dances derive from traditional ceremonies and dress, a person from the 1800s would not recognize any part of a modern pow-wow.

2) I have seen so much change, I remember seeing what was called a bustle dance. The traditional dancers would remove their eagle feather bustle and place them on the floor and then dance around it! Now when even one Eagle feather drops the pow-wow is stopped and the feather is picked up with more or less ceremony. This ceremony is now (traditional).

3) I always hear people complain about prize money. The contest is what pow-wows are about today. The things that we love about dances is all the bright colors and lots of dancers, the more the better in fact. If no prize money was offered at the pow-wow the outfits would not be so flashy and fun. (remember the old fluffy bustles of the 60s). Also most of those dancers came from some other city, rez, state, or Country do you think the Jonathan Windyboy, Eli Tail, Terry Fiddler, and others travel all summer with Government checks. The pow-wow circuit lasts from March to Sept so you can bet that they don't have jobs. Prize money allows everyone to see the best dancers and here the best singers of North America in your home town.

Two years ago I met a jingle dress dancer from Alberta at the Oglala Nation Fair in Pine Ridge she said I have made 22 thousand dollars so far this year we wont go hungry this winter. So in as few words as possible NO CASH NO BIG POW-WOWS.

4)public invited all drums and dancers welcome. Read your flyers most should have that statement on or near the bottom. I support any dancer that takes the time and effort to make a good outfit and dances with respect, every dancer should feel the same way. The more dancers the better the pow-wow. If a dancer is mistreated for amy reason that dancer should leave the arena or arbor and forget about ever attending or supporting that pow-wow committee or group ever again. If there is prejudice or Mixed blood Full blood craziness forget it they are not worth your time. Hang out with your friends meet people and engage in some friendly competition, that is what pow-wows are all about today. -- David Browneyes